While cycling is good for the environment, for example, one less car ride, the bike, and clothing manufacturers leave a substantial carbon footprint. But with the calls for companies to move towards more environmentally friendly and sustainable materials, the tides are slowly changing. As a result, brands like Trek are starting to make changes to reduce their environmental impact.
I posed a few questions to Haley Ludwick, Trek Corporate Communications Manager, about their recent announcement regarding a new apparel line and eBike battery program.
Sheri: Trek recently launched a new apparel line from sustainably sourced materials. Explain the details of the program.
Haley: Trek’s new apparel line is made using fabrics that contain recycled materials, including fabric fibers spun from recycled plastic water bottles and pre-consumer textile waste. In total, the SS22 apparel collection diverts 64 tons of material from landfills annually.
In addition to the new apparel line, apparel packaging is made of 100% recycled content. Through this initiative, nearly 400lbs of plastic laminate on hangtags has been eliminated, 750lbs of paper has been saved by removing additional chamois hangtags, and by switching from plastic to paper bags we replaced the need for over 3 tons of plastic bags with a curbside recyclable alternative.
Sheri: Are these new materials still soft, breathable, and wicking?
Haley: Yes! The new apparel line underwent extensive testing and years of planning, research, revisions, and samples to ensure the apparel met our high standards of performance and comfort.
Sheri: Is there a price point difference between the new apparel line and the other Trek clothing?
Haley: We believe you shouldn’t have to pay a premium when acting more responsibly when choosing cycling clothes. The new line of SS22 Trek Apparel replaces all Trek’s existing road jerseys and shorts and is priced competitively to apparel offered in the marketplace—recycled or not.
Sheri: What is Trek doing to educate the consumer about sustainability and preserving fabrics so they last longer?
Haley: Last year, Trek published the industry’s first ever Sustainability Report. One purpose of this report was to educate consumers on Trek’s footprint, Trek’s sustainability efforts and what they can do to become more sustainable. Additionally, the launch of the SS22 Trek Apparel provided an opportunity to inform consumers about the importance of sustainable fabrics.
Sheri: Has Trek considered a used gear recycling program to reduce items ending up in landfills?
Haley: The fashion industry is the third most polluting sector after the oil and gas industry. 87% of the total fiber input used to manufacture clothing worldwide ends up incinerated or disposed of in landfills. This is the reason Trek’s new apparel line was designed using more sustainably sourced materials, including pre-consumer textile waste. Trek is continuously exploring avenues to eliminate waste and extend the life of products, including additional recycling programs, repaired gear programs, and other projects to develop Trek’s circularity program. We have also developed a life-cycle assessment program internally to measure the entire life of a product to identify key areas for improvement to further reduce environmental impact.
Sheri: Trek also announced a partnership with Call2recycle to recycle eBike batteries. Can you elaborate on the partnership?
Haley: The e-bike battery recycling program is an industry wide partnership with Call2Recycle and PeopleForBikes. The partnership allows bicycle retailers to become battery collection sites. Through the program, retailers receive training in handling e-bike batteries, can order battery handling equipment, and more. Once a retailer is enrolled in the program, they are identified as a battery recycling center, allowing customers to easily drop off their used e-bike batteries to be recycled. This program is extremely important. As more e-bikes are sold, there is the potential for more e-bike batteries ending up in landfills. You can learn more about the partnership here and here.
Sheri: What is the typical useful life of an eBike battery?
Haley: The useful life of an e-bike battery is dependent on multiple factors. However, Bosch, a battery found on many Trek bikes, states that the battery should last between 5-10 years.
Sheri: What types of materials are recovered from recycling an eBike battery?
Haley: Lithium and precious heavy metals are collected from recycled batteries. With new recycling methods, the strategically selected recyclers in the C2R program can retain >80% of those heavy metals used in batteries. Lithium being an important heavy metal to recover as the demand for lithium with batteries has increased in recent years. Other materials, like the plastic used on battery covers, can also be recovered during the recycling process.
Sheri: Does Trek have a program to recycle carbon fiber frames and wheels?
Haley: Trek is not currently recycling carbon fiber frames, but we are exploring viable solutions as recycling technologies advance.
Sheri: Any other sustainable programs on the horizon for Trek?
Haley: Yes! Trek is continuing to complete the commitments we set forth in the Sustainability Report while pursuing additional sustainable programs, namely, a new sustainability guide for retailers, the opening of our first LEED building in July, the arrival of our first electric vans, direct investment into large renewable energy projects, and more!
April is Earth Month, with April 22nd being Earth Day focusing on climate change and sustainability. The theme for Earth Day this year was Invest in Our Planet. As cyclists, we can make a statement with the dollars we spend on gear and our votes. If reducing the amount of material ending up in landfills each year is important to you, consider:
- Purchasing gear made from sustainable materials
- Donating used gear and bikes to local non-profits or organizations like World Bicycle Relief, Cycling Recycling, Goodwill, etc
- Offering it to someone just starting to bike or a young rider
- Not being so quick to discard an old jersey if there’s still useful life
Every little bit helps. Commit to reduce, reuse, recycle.
Sheri Rosenbaum regularly contributes articles and reviews products for RBR. She’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in the Chicago area and a major advocate for women’s cycling, serving on the board of directors and volunteering with the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club. Click to read Sheri’s full bio or visit her web site sunflowersandpedals.com.